Skip to main content

Full text of "Alexander von Humboldt"

See other formats

physical and mathematical science, and the knowledge
of astronomy and geography. Henceforward, say&
Humboldt, the advancement of cosmical knowledge
was no longer dependent on single political events.,
but on the events occurring in space. The Arabians,,
a Semitic, primitive race, not only opposed barbarism.,
but went back to the sources of Greek philosophy, and
opened new paths to natural observation; therefore
Humboldt, who has so well proved that the life of
nations is influenced, besides their intellectual quali-
fications., by many objective conditions, of soil, climate^
and vicinity of the ocean, perceives in the irregular
form of the Arabian peninsula, an important reason,
for the great intercourse this nation had with the
world, and their consequent influence on the study of
natural sciences, which was particularly favoured by
their native love for nature and her powers. They
cultivated pre-eminently medical science and che-
mistry, and founded a new scientific era in the latter.
Humboldt pronounces the importance of chemistry to
consist in this, that through it the first knowledge of
the difference of matter, and of the influence of its
powers not visible by movement, was obtained, and
that thus the admixture of matter became a branch
of knowledge, as well as the form. But the know-
ledge of the earth in the heart of the continent was
also cultivated by the Arab intellect as well as astro-
nomy, and mathematic science in general.
And now came the era of oceanic discoveries; the
fifteenth century impelled all intellectual labour to-
wards one goal; the views of the middle ages were
gone, and a new age was preparing.
The western hemisphere was discovered—the first-
ineffectual discovery of America in the eleventh cen-
tury became, through Columbus, a new discovery of
civilization. The partiality which Humboldt shows for
this event, and its consequences, in all his descriptions,
is explained in the biographical account of his life. He
was, in contrast to Columbus, the geographical dis-
coverer of the American tropics^ the scientific dis-